WHAT IS THE BEST PRE WORKOUT MEAL?
By Sean Nalewanyj
What is the best pre workout meal to consume before your weight training workout?
A proper pre workout meal should accomplish two basic things...
1) Maximize performance during the training session.
This is the single most important factor. If your strength and energy levels are near their peak while you train, you'll be able to create the most powerful muscle building growth stimulus possible.
2) Provide the raw materials needed to assist muscle recovery and growth for when the session is over.
Though most people will generally consider this to be the job of their post workout meal, this is not entirely accurate.
Because nutrient absorption is such a gradual process, it is actually the nutrients from your pre-workout meal that are being broken down and absorbed after your training session is over.
How do we accomplish these two goals? Let's break it down into simple terms...
An effective pre-workout meal does not need to contain anything complicated or fancy. A basic combination of high quality protein and carbohydrates will easily get the job done.
The protein will provide your body with the amino acids needed to facilitate recovery and growth following the session, while the carbohydrates will provide your muscles and brain with the energy needed to optimize performance.
Any high quality protein source will work here. Whey protein is ideal because it's light on the stomach and is high in branched-chain amino acid content, but if you prefer chicken, fish or red meat that's fine too.
As for carbohydrates, a minimum of 20-30 grams from any basic source is acceptable. Fruit, pasta, oatmeal, rice - it's really up to you.
Here are 2 other quick points to take into consideration...
- I would generally recommend that you keep the fat content of your pre-workout meal on the lower end. Fats slow down the movement of foods from the stomach to the small intestine which may increase the chances of feeling bloated/sluggish during your workout.
- Though some people swear by it, I don't believe that training in a fasted state is going to be ideal for the majority of people. A pre-workout meal will maximize overall intensity and performance, ward off potential unwanted muscle loss and increase post workout fat burning due to an increase in thermogenesis.
That said, if you prefer fasted training for whatever reason, 10g or more of a BCAA supplement taken prior to the session is highly recommended to maximize performance. (Though technically this no longer qualifies as being truly fasted since BCAA's do have caloric value)
The specific time that you consume your pre workout meal is largely an issue of personal preference. The bottom line is to eat your pre workout meal at whatever time allows for the best strength, energy and stomach comfort for you.
For most people, around 1.5 - 2 hours pre-workout is going to work best. If you prefer it, an even longer time frame is fine.
Any sooner than this and there's a good chance you'll end up feeling bloated or even nauseous during the session. Intense training causes the body to divert blood away from the stomach and to the working muscles. As a result, any food in the stomach will simply sit there undigested.
For that reason, a plate of chicken and rice 30 minutes before hitting the gym is probably not the best idea.
As you can see, structuring an effective pre workout nutrition approach is pretty straightforward. Here's a quick recap...
- Consume a high quality protein and carbohydrate source at least 1.5 - 2 hours prior to your workout. If you prefer to wait longer, that's fine.
- Keep the fat content of the meal on the lower end.
- Fasted training is generally not recommended for the majority of people. If you do decide to train without consuming food, take in at least 10g of a BCAA supplement instead.
Make sure to check out my fully structured, step-by-step muscle building and fat burning systems below...
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